Anything’s possible for trans teen Kelsa (Eva Reign) who walks and feels like the main character of her own life and won’t let her identity overshadow her dreams and aspirations in life. Billy Porter, the Emmy-winning “Pose” star, marking his directorial debut, opens Anything’s Possible as Kelsa prepares herself for her “last first day” of school. Guiding us in a voiceover, she explains her love for everything animals. “We are a part of the animal kingdom too!” she says, “Aren’t we?” She then goes on to compare her supportive single mother (Renée Elise Goldsberry) with a mother elephant and her best friends Em (Courtnee Carter), and Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson) are panther chameleons and howler monkeys respectively. If this is any indication, Anything’s Possible makes it very clear what can one expect from this delightfully light tale of teenage romance rehash for this generation.
In art class, she is paired up with the handsome and dorky Muslim student Khalid (Abubakr Ali), and instantly develops a crush. Turns out, Em has a crush on him too. They get to know each other a little, with Kelsa saying how she wants to study Zoology and wants to become a nature cinematographer. “Dope,” replies Khalid, who is still not sure what he wants to study. He is more interested in aiding his Reddit followers with their romantic and personal issues under anonymity. These initial scenes are well done; they flow without a dry sense of correctness. It has that cheesy taste of first love, and Porter aided by screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona keeps things confidently light. Set in Pittsburgh, it reveals how much fun Porter has in playing with the locales- it even makes space for a colorful wall graffiti of the director in one instance.
As Kelsa and Khal embark on their relationship in school, their personal relationships turn sour. For Kelsa, it is Em who feels cheated and betrayed as a friend. It results in a small face-off, as a result of which Kelsa is banned from using the ladies washroom. Then there is Khalid, who is labeled as gay by his problematic friend Otis (Grant Reynolds) as a result of which he steers away from him. Although these issues take over the second half, we all know where it is headed towards. And it does not disappoint, clearing out these pieces within a flash, with a ready-to-please tendency. Even as Kelsa aspires to be an individual who has an identity beyond her trans-ness, she struggles to get past that aspect of herself. In fact, both Kelsa and Khalid share their deepest thoughts online- she through her YouTube videos and he with Reddit, which reveals the ways of our generation effectively, yet somehow feels like an easily dispensable narrative onus.
Porter’s tale is effective mainly because of that. It does not try to inject its diverse, politically correct points on your face. Anything’s Possible understands what it does not want to do, and in that space, ends up clearing out a tale told with familiar grace, filled with unfamiliar characters. At its center is a black, trans girl at the cusp of developing her own space in the world. By placing her at the center of a teenage romance, Porter’s film graces the age-old genre with just the right amount of heart and mind. So much so that the film avoids tackling any narrative crises, and ends up seemingly self-aware of its own place.
Reign plays Kelsa with confidence and charisma, creating a character instantly likable and believable in its wide-eyed hope. She is ably supported by Ali, who creates the innocent boy-next-door seem creditable. Goldsberry shines in a powerful scene where she tells how easy it is to love her child, and that there is nothing stopping her from achieving what she wants. In the end, Anything’s Possible makes for a wonderful reload of an overused genre for a new generation. It does not aim high and delivers. Kelsa and Khalid’s story stands alongside the newage romances like Netflix’s Heartstopper and HBO’s Euphoria (notice how TV is much more ahead in this regard) that have restored a dying genre for a newer generation. One only wishes that this showed a little more edge.